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Drs. Collins, Fauci, Part authors of Science Article on Need for Coordinated COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy

A new opinion article published by Science today advocates for a “harmonized and collaborative approach to the clinical testing, scale-up and distribution of candidate vaccines to prevent COVID-19. ” The piece was penned by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Lawrence Corey, a vaccine expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Dr. John R. Mascola, of the NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. 

The authors suggest more than one effective vaccine approach will likely be required to successfully protect the global community from SARS-CoV-2. Their article also describes a strategic approach aimed at generating the data required to develop multiple vaccine candidates in parallel.

The writers emphasize developing COVID-19 vaccines will require unprecedented cooperation from governments, academic institutions, industry and global philanthropic partners. The Science article also repeatedly refers to the importance of animal studies in developing effective COVID-19 vaccines. It can be found at this link.

Video Sneak Peek: The Many Ways Animal Research Will Help End the Pandemic

We just added the finishing touches to our latest video in our COVID-19 series. This one looks at the many ways animal research will help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It likely comes as no surprise that the video highlights the role of animal studies in identifying treatments and developing vaccines. But that’s not all. We also investigate how animal-based research is providing important information about SARS-CoV-2: where it came from and whether our bodies can learn to defend themselves against it. Other portions of the video are dedicated to efforts to address the ventilator shortage and concerns about becoming infected by pet animals.     

We’ll be sharing the video widely next week. However, we placed it online today to give you an early sneak peek:

The video can also be found on YouTube and Vimeo. Links below. Feel free to share it widely as soon as you like! 

YouTube link:

Vimeo link:

Newly Released Study Finds Nearly Everyone Who Recovers From COVID-19 Makes Coronavirus Antibodies

A recent study published in Nature Medicine offers new hope regarding the benefits of antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2. Researchers in China drew blood from 285 people hospitalized with severe COVID-19. After analyzing those samples, scientists found all had developed SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies within two to three weeks of their first symptoms. The findings suggest the immune systems of people who survive COVID-19 have been primed to recognize SARS-CoV-2 and possibly thwart a second infection.

To confirm their results, the researchers focused on 69 additional people diagnosed with COVID-19. With this group, they collected blood samples from each person upon admission to the hospital and every three days until discharge. The research team found that, with the exception of one woman and her daughter, the patients produced specific antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 within 20 days of their first symptoms of COVID-19.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Colins covered the study in his blog which can be found here.  

USDA Developing Plans to Resume Animal Inspections

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service sent out an announcement this morning to all AWA licensees and registrants to update them on the status of facility inspections. 

The agency reports it is currently developing plans to allow the resumption of routine inspections. This follows protocols put in place in March where some inspections were halted in response to regional shelter-in-place orders. At that time, APHIS said it would continue to investigate serious welfare concerns but routine checks were limited based on risk assessments to both inspectors and facility personnel

For the time being, APHIS says the process developed in March will remain in effect. 

The USDA’s full announcement can be found at this link.

NIH Clinical Trial Shows Remdesivir Accelerates COVID-19 Recovery

According to preliminary data generated by an NIH clinical trial, hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 and breathing issues who received the drug remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received a placebo. The trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was the first launched in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19. 

An NIH press release containing additional details can be found here.

What We’re Reading About COVID-19 – April 27, 2020

General News 

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US is approaching one million as more than 55 thousand deaths have been documented. Overseas in Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on the job today after recovering from coronavirus. Meanwhile, Italy, one of the hardest hit countries is making plans to ease social distancing measures. 

Health and Science News

An article in the New York Times suggests Oxford University is currently leading efforts to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. Last month six rhesus macaque monkeys were inoculated with a single dose of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus causing the pandemic. More than 28 days later, all six reportedly remain healthy. The scientists are now hoping to conduct a clinical trial involving 6,000 people by the end of next month.  (more…)

New NIAID Strategic Plan Identifies COVID-19 Research Priorities, Highlights Critical Role of Animal Studies

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases today released a new strategic plan to identify and define the institute’s plan for accelerating research to diagnose, prevent and treat COVID-19.

The NIAID’s plan includes four key priorities: 

  1. Improving fundamental knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, including studies to characterize the virus and better understand how it causes infection and disease. Here, the NIH institute specifically notes that small and large animal models that can recapitulate COVID-19 disease seen in humans must be developed.
  2. Developing rapid, accurate diagnostics and assays to identify and isolate COVID-19 cases and track the spread of the virus.
  3. Characterizing and testing potential treatments for COVID-19. 
  4. Developing safe and effective vaccines to protect individuals from infection and prevent future SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks.


USDA/CDC Announce Confirmation of COVID-19 infections in Two Pet Cats in New York

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories today announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in two pet cats. The animals are the first pets in the United States to test positive for the disease. The cats lived in two separate areas of the state. Both showed mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery.  

According to the USDA, in one of the NY cases, a veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild respiratory signs. No individuals in the household were confirmed to be ill with COVID-19. It’s believed the virus may have been transmitted to this cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home.

The full USDA press release can be found at this link.

Expert Panel Releases NIH Treatment Guidelines for COVID-19

Just announced by the NIH: A panel of physicians, statisticians and other experts has created treatment guidelines for battling COVID-19 infections. The guidelines, which are of course intended for use by healthcare providers, are based on both published and preliminary data, along with the clinical expertise of the panelists. 

The guidelines have been posted online at this link. They will be updated often as new data comes to light in peer-reviewed scientific literature and other trusted sources. 

Here’s a link to the full NIH announcement.  

What We’re Reading About COVID-19 – April 20, 2020

General News 

According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, his state is expected to test 3,000 people for antibodies to the coronavirus starting today. The news comes as the single-day death toll in New York has finally dipped below 500. 

Some bad news for the oil industry as the price has dropped below zero for the first time in history. 

Health and Science News

While one would never say there’s a silver lining to a worldwide pandemic, some opposed to vaccines are changing their minds. That story comes from CNN. And an article from Medical News Today takes a look at what happens inside the body when someone is infected with SARS-CoV-2. In other news, the University of Calgary is looking into the risk of COVID-19 transmission from pets.  (more…)